Thomas Mulcair will almost certainly emerge as leader of the federal New Democrats at the end of this weekend. Not even former leader Ed Broadbent’s recent attack on the Outremont, Quebec MP will be enough to overcome the lead he’s built over the past several months.
Mulcair is a seasoned politician—a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister and member of Quebec’s national assembly—and is clearly the best choice NDP members have if they wish to maintain the upper hand in Quebec.
Backroom strategist Brian Topp does not come close to matching Mulcair’s personal appeal and political experience, nor do any of the run-of-the-mill MP candidates like Paul Dewar, Peggy Nash and Nathan Cullen.
Dewar, Topp and Nash seem to be defenders of the NDP’s traditional position on the left. This has, in the past, left the centre open to the Grits and Tories to fight over.
Cullen, apparently, believes in an anybody-but-Tory strategy whereby the NDP co-operate with Liberals and Greens by running a single progressive candidate in ridings where the Conservatives dominate. A modified unite-the-left, so to speak.
Thomas Mulcair seems to be the only frontrunner who’s bold enough and pragmatic enough to move the party towards the center where it can go head to head with the Liberals for their traditional voter base.
Unfortunately, Mulcair is said to have a quick temper with his own caucus colleagues. This could be an important issue if he doesn’t win on the first ballot, as other candidates may seem more likable and be favoured as second, third, etc., choices.
In an interview with Postmedia News, Ed Broadbent said he saw a “capacity to reach out to people as individuals” lacking in Mulcair. And, according to Postmedia News, “Broadbent said New Democrats should realize this is an important issue to consider because a leader who is unable to maintain caucus unity eventually loses its trust.”
Not knowing Mulcair personally, I cannot say how likable he is. I will say, however, that a leader need not be likable so long as he is respected and seen as trustworthy. If he is seen as being a winner, the smarter Dippers will pick him, whether they like him or not.